37 Quotes from Sam Altman on Building a Great Product

From How to Start a Startup — Lecture 1


From Stanford’s CS183B Course How to Start a Startup — Lecture 1

With the response I received from my first post on 58 Quotes from Sam Altman on Startup Ideas, I’ve decided to finish the lecture and create a similar post around Sam’s comments on building a great product here. Some of the quotes are repetitive in nature, but I’ve decided to include them all to help stress their importance.

Once again, the quotes below are all 140 characters or less, so please feel free to share as you see fit. In case I’ve missed any quotes or you find any errors, please leave me a comment and I will be sure to update the post.

  1. “One of the most important tasks for a founder is to make sure the company builds a great product.”
  2. “Until you’ve built a great product, almost nothing else matters.”
  3. “Step 1 is to build something that users love.”
  4. “At YC, we tell our founders to work on their product, talk to users, exercise, eat, and sleep, and very little else.”
  5. “PR, conferences, recruiting advisors, doing partnerships, you should ignore all of that, and just build a product.”
  6. “Your job is to build something that users love.”
  7. “A lot of good on paper startups fail, because they nearly make something that people like.”
  8. “Making something that people want, but only a medium amount, is a great way to fail and not understand why you’re failing.”
  9. “It’s better to build something that a small number of users love, than a large number of users like.”
  10. “It’s much easier to expand from something that a small number of people love, to something that a lot of people love.”
  11. “One way you that know when this is working, is that you’ll get growth by word of mouth”
  12. “If you make something that people love, people will tell their friends about it. This works for consumer products and enterprise products.”
  13. “If you don’t have some early organic growth, then you’re product probably isn’t good enough yet.”
  14. “A great product is the secret to long term growth hacking. You should get that right before you worry about anything else.”
  15. “It doesn’t get easier to put off making a great product.”
  16. “If you try to build a growth machine before you have a product that some people really love,you’re almost certainly going to waste your time”
  17. “Breakout companies almost always have a product that’s so good, that it grows by word of mouth”
  18. “Don’t worry about your competitors raising a lot of money, and what they may do in the future, they probably aren’t very good anyway.”
  19. “Very few startups die from competition, most die because they themselves fail to make something users love.”
  20. “It’s much much easier to make a great product if you have something simple.”
  21. “…And its hard to build a great product, and so you want to start with as little surface area as possible.”
  22. “Another reason why simple is good, is because it forces you to do one thing extremely well.”
  23. “The word fanatical comes up again and again when you listen to successful founders talk about how they think about their product.”
  24. “These founders feel physical pain when their product sucks and they want to wake up and fix it.”
  25. “You need some users to help with the feedback cycle, but the way to get those users is manually — you should go recruit them by hand.”
  26. “Don’t do things like buy Google Ads in the early days to get initial users.”
  27. “You don’t need very many, just ones that will give you feedback everyday and eventually love your product.” — Referring to users
  28. “Even if you’re building the product for yourself, listen to outside users — they’ll tell you how to make a product they’ll pay for.”
  29. “You want to build an engine in your company that translates feedback from users into product decisions.”
  30. “Ask them what they’d pay for. Ask them if they’d be really bummed if your company went away.” — Referring to users
  31. “Ask them what would make them recommend the product to their friends, and ask them if they have recommended it to any yet.” — Referring to users
  32. “One of the great advantages of software startups, is just how short you can make that feedback loop.”
  33. “And the best companies usually have the tightest feedback loops.”
  34. “Great founders don’t put anyone between themselves and their users.”
  35. “The founders of these companies do things like sales and customer support themselves in the early days.”
  36. “It really is true, the company will build whatever the CEO decides to measure.”
  37. “Startups live on growth, it’s the indicator of a great product.”

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Image Credit: HTML Code by Marjan Krebelj